Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I am glad to welcome the year 5780. As a society, the year 5779 was, in my opinion, less than our best work. I feel like I did less than my best work.
I gave many talks about acts of violence and the prevailing wisdom how to keep members of the public safe from bad guys, but I offered mostly skepticism and few genuine answers. Too often my only real advice on this subject was to call your elected officials. I began many conversations by acknowledging the elephant in the room before pivoting, much later than I wanted, to discussing routine perils that we could actually fix.
I can do better. So in anticipation of Yom Kippur next week, I ask your forgiveness and pledge to focus more fully in this new year on positive actions event professionals can take so their patrons, co-workers, and peers might actually be safer and more secure.
In order to close the book on third-party violence for a while, I’m going to share a few resources with you, then move along.
Although I have long been on record as critical of “Run, Hide, Fight” for entertainment spaces, as opposed to the office buildings for which the advice was designed, people still ask me which videos I think are least objectionable. I don’t have strong feelings about this, but here is a useful assortment:
1. As far as I know, the most viewed training video is Ready Houston’s “Run, Hide, Fight: Surviving an Active Shooter Event.“ Possibly because it has been around since 2012 (and is only six minutes long), it has been viewed more than 8 million times. This video’s bad guy looks conspicuously like Vin Diesel, which is catchy but wildly misleading. Note that the most murderous active shooter in U.S. history, Stephen Paddock, was a 64 year old Causasian accountant and real estate investor who looked like neither a Middle Eastern terrorist nor an action figure.
2. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has an hour and a half video, “Active Shooter Emergency Action Plan.” It is not alarmist, which is good.
3. Arizona State University, where I teach, offers a 10 minute video, “Active Shooter Preparedness: What would you do if…?” If you want a video that’s neither too short nor too long, this might be just right.
I’m sure there are other fine videos. I don’t really want to watch them because three years after I wrote my article on this subject, I still see little evidence that “Run, Hide, Fight” works well in live event spaces. But I am supporting a candidate for the U.S. Senate who would make it harder to buy an AR-15 style assault rifle. So I’m trying to practice what I preach.
In an effort to purge myself of everything I have to say about guns by now, I recently wrote an article for a legal publication about event operators’ liability for acts of third-party violence. Then a trade association asked me to give their members a shorter version with less of the legal jargon. Here is that analysis, in a nice, readable package.
In a nutshell, I predict that the law will soon hold event producers liable if something bad happens and they did not have some kind of emergency action plan. (Maybe you should read the article now.)
To read the headlines, one might wonder what there is to discuss besides politics and gun violence these days. As I close the book on the rather unpleasant year that was, here are some of the items on my agenda:
• Ways to preserve reasonable walking paths even at GA events;
• How to make signage visible enough to show that the event organizer values life safety over profits;
• The importance of industry standards in an industry with few laws or regulations (and why this makes sense);
• More shameless plugs for the cleverly-hosted Event Safety Podcast, whose current episode continues our very interesting conversation about accessibility issues at live events;
• Inside scoop on this year’s Event Safety Summit, which will take place November 20 – 22. Maybe I’ll explain the significance for the Event Safety Alliance of the Beatles’ transition from Sgt. Pepper to the White Album.
The point is that there is a lot of good we can accomplish. So as much as possible, I’m going to focus on what I can help to fix, rather than obsessing about what is broken beyond my control. I encourage you to do the same.
I wish you a sweet, safe, and happy new year.